Is This The Most Challenging Saturn Return Ever? Part 1

Monday January 16th 2012
Edmund Dulac - Father Time

Father Time by Edmund Dulac.

In the past 12-month, I have read a lot of charts for people experiencing either their first or second Saturn Return. And the more I have looked at these charts and talked to these individuals, the more I have asked myself: did these Saturn Return generations get dealt the nastiest planetary hand to play in the hardest game of astrological poker ever? The answer was yes – and no.

If you have Saturn in Libra (born in the early 1950s or early 1980s),  I’m talking about you. But everyone else (including me) can learn something from your experience.

Before plunging into the specifics for these generations, I think it’s useful to remind ourselves of exactly what a Saturn Return is.

Put simply the Saturn Return is when the planet of responsibility and duty comes back to the place he was on the day you were born. It will have taken about 29 years for the old boy to make his way around the zodiac, bringing challenges and lessons to each sign he passes through.

Your first Saturn Return is when you officially come of age as an adult.  Your second is when you step into the true seniority and find yourself at the beginning of the “third age”. If you’re lucky enough to get to a third Saturn Return, then I’d really like to hear what you can tell me about it.

Quite often the Saturn Return brings with it a feeling of now or never. You feel you have to take your life in your hands and make difficult choices if you want to live a full existence. Much depends on what you have done with the previous 28 years. If things haven’t gone too well, the Saturn Return can be pretty miserable, but if you’re doing OK, this can be a time of real achievement.

The first two Saturn Returns happen at around 29 years of age and around 58, but really the Return is the entire period that Saturn is in the same sign as he was when you were born, so it spans about two and a half years. What is more, Saturn usually hits the natal degree three times – forwards, backwards and then forwards again. Although if you’re lucky it might happen just once and, if you’re really get whipped, five times.

Until the discovery of Uranus a couple of hundred years ago, Saturn was the considered the boundary, the full stop at the end of the solar system. That’s important in understanding the planet’s symbolism. The Saturn cycle marks eras in your life. You can look at it in seven-year chunks (that’s a quarter a cycle) or 28 year chunks and you are bound to find a pattern. The Saturn Return marks a full stop at the end of one life chapter and the beginning of the next one.

Edvard Munch - Melancholy

Melancholy by Edvard Munch, painted in 1891 during his first Saturn Return.

In your natal chart, he appears in the area of life (house) where you will have to learn some serious lessons. It’s where you will have to overcome obstacles in order to become a fulfilled individual.  He also symbolises the father and the part of your own psyche which acts as your “father”, the maker of rules, the disciplinarian (or not), the critic. It’s where you may block yourself, or be blocked.

Saturn is rock, earth, solid. Saturn is about building, about working, about striving.

He spends about 2.5 years in each sign. What does he do while he visits a sign?

Saturn’ is maturing. He rules the harvest. So when Saturn arrives in a sign, it’s ripe. This is metaphorical, of course. He is Father Time himself, carrying a long sharp scythe, ready to cut away what is unnecessary and what is simply ready to be threshed. He establishes boundaries. He brings responsibility. He makes foundations.Wherever he transits your chart you may experience difficulties but also garner rewards for jobs well done.

Imagine a peasant (in buckskin and rabbit fur if you like), cutting down his wheat, and remarking the boundaries of his field, walking the land he cultivates, weighing the flour from the miller, taking stock. Saturn rules the deep winter months of Capricorn and Aquarius, when the world is at its stillest.

The first time that Saturn returns to the degree where he was on the day you were born, you can expect a reckoning to take place. There will be a tally of how well you have done and how far you have to go. It’s time to face reality and ask yourself the hard questions, like, am I on the way to living the life I want? Am I the person I want to be? All too often the answer is, not really.

Remember that Saturn is exalted in Libra, the sign of the balance, used for weighing and measuring.

Many astrologers would say that you aren’t fully adult until after your first Saturn Return and the whole time that Saturn is in the sign he was at your birth is time of testing.

And your second Saturn Return may well be just as tough. This at a time when you have enough life behind you to really be able to judge yourself. If you feel you’ve done your best in the circumstances, this can be a good feeling, but if you feel you’ve wasted a lot of time and effort on nonsense, the second Saturn Return can be even harder than the first. You will be acutely aware that time is running out.

On your Saturn Returns, he asks this crucial question: “How well have you spent your time on Earth?”Part Two of this comes on Wednesday, when I’ll look at Saturn in Libra. Meanwhile here are links to an excellent series on the mythology of Saturn by Isy, which was published here at The OA over the summer.

Castration, Rape and A Sharp Blade: Saturn’s Tricky Childhood

When Saturn Goes Off The Rails

The major book on the subject is by Liz Greene. I’ve come across a lot of people for whom this was their first encounter with real astrology. It’s excellent despite being past its first Saturn Return.


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  1. Anonymous says:

    Saturn in Transit by Erin Sullivan is also a great book.

  2. Anonymous says:

    My Saturn is in Libra and this is my first Saturn return 🙂 I am enjoying it so far. It’s almost as if I was sleepwalking through life so far but now everything is in sharp focus. I wake up everyday filled with a lot of energy to accomplish my goals. It’s as if my path in life is clear all of a sudden. I’ve been through a slightly tough relationship lesson recently but frankly, it was nothing compared to what people go through. I gained a lot from the experience even though it was harsh. I now know exactly what I want to receive and share and what my boundaries are. Personally, I’ve always liked my Saturn 🙂

  3. P says:

    My Saturn return was round about when I started much-needed therapy.

  4. Christina says:

    @Anon – yes it is!!

    @P – therapy = getting grip, n’est-ce pas?

  5. jess says:

    My SA was when I discovered real astrology! Just had to figure out what the hell was going on. Realising that Saturn was jangling my challenging to say the least grand cross as well as returning and what that meant pretty much saved my life.

  6. P says:

    Oh – should have also pointed out: My Saturn is the anchor, so to speak, of a stellium in Libra in the 12th house. It’s at 15 degs Libra. Including Pallas Athene, it’s a packed 12th house; the other planets and asteroids are Eros @ 0, Pallas @ 6, Mars @ 11, Pluto @ 24, and Jupiter @ 0 degs Scorpio. All this is my 12th.
    And Saturn squares my nodes. And my MC.
    Fun stuff, huh?

  7. Anonymous says:

    I got married on my SR – turned out to be something of a mistake but I felt I had to do something to prove I was a grown up. Hoping to make more sense this time around.

  8. Mary says:

    During my first Saturn return, my husband and I moved to a new country together (Saturn in Aries in the seventh, opposite first house Uranus in Libra) and started our family (Saturn square my fourth house Capricorn Sun). I certainly do see that time as my initiation into adulthood.
    As to the extra-challenging Saturn returns going on right now: could it be that the world desperately needs all the responsible grownups available at this juncture, and so Saturn has turned up the volume, so to speak? Still, good luck to all undergoing Saturn returns right now!

  9. Christina says:

    @Anonymous first Saturn Returner – and look at William and Kate. Libra and Saturn do go together beautifully, so despite the stormy astro-weather for this return, you have a strong hand. But more on this next post.

  10. Christina says:

    @P – That is very intense and difficult. So you went into therapy while Saturn was transiting your 12th – organising your subconscious! Very good move – and shows excellent Libran weighing and measuring.

  11. Anonymous says:

    OOH! looking at Saturn in Libra in the 12th…Now my second return…what a treat! Full house with Mercury and Venus in Virgo retrograde..such a deal!

  12. Iris says:

    Hi Christina, could you say a bit about how you would distinguish the cutting away of the unnecessary by Saturn from the letting go of the unnecessary by Pluto? How might they feel different?

  13. Christina says:

    Iris – that is such a good question that I am going to sleep on it and answer properly tomorrow – but…. no, I was going to say violence…but it’s not that simple. I think this may be a whole post. Thanks for the idea.

  14. Jackie T says:

    “Quite often the Saturn Return brings with it a feeling of now or never. You feel you have to take your life in your hands and make difficult choices if you want to live a full existence.” This is precisely how I feel now, in the middle of my second Saturn Return

  15. Anonymous says:

    LOVE Iris’ question regarding Saturn compared to Pluto. Very much looking forward to your post on this. In my experience Saturn leaves behind physical, tangible manifestations of its transit…

  16. Anonymous says:

    I’m 31 and have just had my Saturn return. Its been a crazy time – I left my abusive husband , Id just had enough so I sought advice , took my kids and rebuilt my life from scratch. I’m now working and financially independent , my children are happy and my now ex husband speaks to me with respect when he comes to pick the kids up.

    I’ve had the best times , I’ve also hit rock bottom on at least 3 or 4 occasions. Am hoping for more settled times to come!

  17. Ok so I am 30,f from India. My saturn return is definitely waking me up. I feel as if I have been sleep walking all this time. specially with saturn in 11th house at 29 degrees.. .you bet. I have gone thru some major ups and downs and have learnt some lessons. I have around 9 more months to go and I already feel like i am back in the womb. Thankyou Saturn for correcting me..I just wish you were not as strict as you became but anyways I guess I deserved it. All the best to others experiencing their returns.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Born Nov/55 Saturn in Scorpio … Saturn conjunct Sun in Scorpio conjunct MC … Capricorn Ascendant … into evolutionary astrology and expecting 2nd hit of Saturn this week. So what’s the diagnosis??? Saturn compared to Pluto??? Pluto connections are Soul related … both give you a kick in the ass.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I am experiencing the third visit of Saturn I will letu know…

  20. […] Here is long explanation of the Saturn Return on this site. […]

  21. Annette says:

    I’m 32 and my bday is the nov 82 range. All I can say for wrapping it up, is thank god it’s over!

    I finally extricated myself from a cyclical relationship with a narcissist, had to deal with my father having a heart attack at 54 and passing and the terrible greedy tragedy of what it does to people.

    I don’t think I can handle another bout with Saturn, so I’m making notes to make sure and not repeat anything! Jesus, it’s been bad, there’s not a good enough word for it, nut I’m checking myself on every turn for the light and lessons

    • Christina says:

      Not easy. We astrologers are inclined to find the “lesson” in even the worst situation but sometimes the lesson is just that life is tough. Congratulations for leaving the narcissist.

  22. Rick says:

    Will saturns return be easier for someone with Capricorn ascendent conjunct Saturn or more difficult?

    • Christina says:

      The honest answer to that is it could go either way. It’s bound to be very important though. You need to look at the aspects Saturn makes in your natal chart to other planets — are they hard or easy? Which planets are involved? And which houses?

      • Rick says:

        Saturn is also retrograde in my natal char conjunct retrograde Neptune and Uranus. Saturn sextile Pluto in Scorpio in the 10th house. Also Venus in the 8th trine Saturn. Mars in the 8th house also trine Saturn. And finally Jupiter exalted in the 6th opposite Saturn